Social Housing – how to cost effectively improve customer service - Part 3

2nd Sep, 2014
Read time: 2 minutes

Budget cuts and saving money were two key topics under discussion at our recent Housing Association event.

When tenants are able to self-serve, it costs housing associations less. In an interview published by McKinsey earlier this year, Mike Bracken, Executive Director of the UK's Government Digital Service, reported that 21% of calls received by public sector bodies were because the digital service failed to allow them to achieve their goals. According to Bracken, further investigation found that for each end-to-end transaction it typically takes five phone calls to get the issue or question answered, adding more cost to customer enquiries being resolved. The Telegraph recently reported that one in eight British adults have never used the internet, it is important to consider how the above statics may grow as more adults come online.

In this article we consider the issues raised at our recent Housing Association meeting and make some quick-win suggestions.

Routine transactions via self-service

Contact centres should harness voice and web self-service for routine transactions; this reduces inbound demand and the cost per transaction. For example, when balance enquiries and payments are automated, agents are freed to deal with more complex tenant requests or support areas such as debt collection. Have you assessed your routine transactions and evaluated the quick wins you could make using automation?

Design your services effectively

The design of any queue, voice or web form, will impact customer effort and customer satisfaction. Do you test all queues, IVR or self-service options to ensure that tenants are able to complete the transaction without needing to contact you on another channel? Are your journeys simple and easy to follow? Do you provide a 'bail-out to an agent' option to ensure you support those needing additional help with digital inclusion, enabling them to use online facilities?

Managing existing infrastructure

Faced with changing requirements, organisations work to improve their processes and increase customer satisfaction. Blending new technology with legacy systems can be complex. Delegates at our recent event raised the following concerns:

  • Multiple system sign-on
  • Duplicate data input which results in data errors
  • Integration issues between the different systems
  • Searching for data can be time consuming

Unified agent desktop

Bracken found that it took, on average, five phone calls to gain resolution. In part 2 we discussed how joining up multiple systems enables more effective control over each case and its management. A contact centre should consider if;

  • The services offered require agents to access lots of data or information before answering a tenant's query?
  • Agents are accessing and updating multiple systems during any conversation?
  • Additional manual processes, such as adding information into spreadsheets, writing an email or letter or completing a form, do they add to the complexity?
  • Agents need significant training before they feel comfortable and are effective?

'If Only' – how often, as a contact centre manager with tenants to serve, do you wish for a more joined-up system or process? Intuitively you will have understood the current wasted effort and resource. You will have a good idea of how the 'if only' requests you have, would increase the potential for first contact resolution and reduce average handling times by bringing together all customer information and internal responses into one place. For example; a repair query on one screen coordinating all aspects would result in an automatic case being opened, planning and parts provided to the service team, notification and confirmation of the appointment with on-the-day reminders to the tenant, followed by a customer survey.

Housing Associations can reduce the cost-to-serve with well-planned self-service. Providing self-service can be a catalyst to considering the wider benefits of connecting and integrating back-office systems and processes. The overall goal is end-to-end transactions with visibility for agents throughout the process.

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